Posted On 22 Dec 2018
Get to know the Bay Area indie pop artist Zyles! This fall, he released the video for single, “Secretary.” The video is a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for searching for love as a twenty-something. His newest track, “Cuddle Puddle” is out now too.
Check it out here: https://youtu.be/cVf4y9LX3jo
Spotify stream: https://open.spotify.com/track/53aQNtub3ukco0NuADceMJ
Connect with Zyles Here:
Learn more about Zyles in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? Is there music playing in the background?
Thanks for having me! I’m in an undisclosed semi-public place where top 40 is playing way too loud. So I have some noise cancelling headphones on, and I put on Q-Tip’s Abstract Radio where he’s mixing James Brown into The Impressions. I like it.
Now that the year is just about over, how do you think 2018 treated you and your career? What has been one goal that you have had this year? Did you accomplish it?
My primary goal in 2018 was to release the first Zyles tunes. I’d been working on Zyles as a pop project for more than a year before that. Sharing the music and playing this material live for the first time even at this early stage has been very rewarding. I did hope to release an EP, but that’ll have to wait until next year.
Growing up, how important was music to you in your life? Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician? Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?
Since I picked up the guitar at 12 or 13 and starting imitating the guitar gods old and new, I always to some extent wanted to pursue music. I spent many years playing various instruments and learning different genres. Releasing pop music this year is an exciting way for me to synthesize a lot of my experience in a form that’s approachable to people I want to reach. Choosing to spend a lot of my time on that has been easy.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? What has been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
The welcome challenge is that no one wants to hear my story in a vacuum. There’s a high bar for me to convince you to take some time out of your day, a break from your existing favorite artists, to listen to Zyles. I think you should throw on “Cuddle Puddle” when you’re looking for a lift or with your friends, “Secretary” when you’re longing, and “Sundresses” when you need something to smile about. But why would you believe me? If you’re reading this hopefully I have some credibility. But convincing you to press play that first time the biggest hurdle.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today?
I’ve embraced the Bay Area, where I live today, as a great source of inspiration. “Cuddle Puddle” is about powerful men who I associate with the moguls out here. “Sundresses” takes place wine country. New York City is my hometown, where I recorded these tracks, and where I’ve had virtually all of my formative music moments.
Let’s talk about your newest song “Cuddle Puddle.” What was the inspiration for this track? How do you think it shows the growth that you have gone through as artist over the years? What has remained the same?
There was an article in Vanity Fair earlier in 2018 that referenced “Silicon Valley’s Secretive, Orgiastic Dark Side”. I’ve lived in the Bay Area for more that 8 years, and I haven’t heard about this dark side outside of this article. So the secrets must be pretty well kept. Or I’m oblivious, which is totally possible. But I am familiar with the characters in the piece. My imagination ran wild and I wrote “Cuddle Puddle”. It’s absurd and a lot of fun. The song is consistent with my strong settings and narratives, but the disco dance element is relatively new. And I might keep it up.
Can you talk about shooting the provocative video for Secretary? How creatively involved were you with the overall making of it?
Making a music video was pretty far out of my element before this year. The process was effectively me asking for a lot, and Helix Wolfson, the director, parsing out what was possible. It was my first video, and it was important to make the right first impression. I wanted to highlight the style, the nerdiness, the dancing, the romance, the guitar playing, and we found a way to capture all of it. We worked collaboratively on the concept and the shots. He brought in all the right people and the shoot came together in one long day. I also continue to find the Secretary Problem incredibly interesting and inspiring, and I’m thrilled we were able to bring it to life onscreen.
When do you hope to release more new music and a full collection of new songs? What has been inspiring you musically lately?
I anticipate I’ll release more material in the first few months of next year. It’ll either be an EP or another single or two followed by an EP. I have a bunch of songs, but it’s all about the narrative. Do people connect to the slow jam tensions in “Secretary”? The fun naughty dancy side of “Cuddle Puddle”? The sunny side of “Sundresses”? Do I want to push another side of myself with a single, or am I ready to offer a complete picture with an EP? I’m thinking about it.
Inspiration-wise, I tend to listen to everything, and then think about the direction for an individual track when I have an idea for a song. For example, I wrote a song with a hook that references a major character in American history and thought, wouldn’t it be so fun to make this tune latin? So I went and explored a few latin sub-genres and wound up with a groovy song that I expect will come out next year.
Since the beginning of music, people have turned to it for support and as an escape from their realities. How do you want your music received and appreciated?
This theme is something I thought a lot about at the last round of shows. At a concert, the artist shepherds the audience through an emotional journey. I added a Prince cover because I don’t have a song quite as sexy sexy, and I added a Jonas Brothers cover because I don’t have a song that’s nostalgic. As I enumerated earlier, each of the three songs so far has a set of emotions I want it to inspire, but the theme as a songwriter is I want the songs to cut deep wherever they are in the spectrum. I think a lot about lyrics and melody so that ideally the songs reach you specifically in a way that they’re believable as well as universally in the sense that they apply to any situation of yours that shares an emotional makeup with the song.
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all of the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all? What would you say is your favorite way to connect with your fans now?
I’ve chose Instagram as the one I’m committing to. Find me @zylesmusic. I have some great visuals thematic with the singles to date. Twitter is full of flamewars that would irritate me so I don’t even bother. Facebook rarely surfaces non-sponsored content from its pages anymore, and for good reason. Today, I see social media it as a necessity to build and engage my early audience. There’s a tension in music because it’s hard to reach prospective fans with only audio and visuals can be so arresting. But I also want the visuals to point to the music, and certainly not everyone who follows me across platforms listens to the music. Is Instagram an ideal way to engage an audience as an artist? Maybe. Obviously it’s not completely optimized for music, but it’s probably the best existing platform audiences are already browsing. It’s something I’ll continue to think about as I interact more with listeners.
One notable reality in social media is that you’re likely to reach people all over the world. Sometimes people will DM me in other languages. I’ve responded to a couple in Spanish. But then I received one in Russian, and I don’t even have Cyrillic keyboard. This may seem obvious, but actually having someone write to you in the native tongue really puts the connected world phenomenon in perspective.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Dylan, Prince, and Steely Dan are the artists who I return to in search of a heightened state of inspiration and often for a specific emotion. They’ve been my favorites for as long as I can remember.
Now at the end of 2018, there are a some hip hop producers I’d like to work with. I’m very curious how some of their grooves would fit with my songs. I suspect it would be really cool. Goldlink is an artist in particular I’ve listened to a bunch recently. I’ve researched some of the producers he’s worked with and I intend to send an email or two. I’m a huge fan of Ezra Koenig as a songwriter who thinks critically about a healthy variety of themes with a healthy dose of humor, and I aspire to have a session with him in the future.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Has to be a piano. I’m not a great piano player but I imagine that would change if I were stranded on an island with one. It’s the closest I can be to a complete orchestra in one item.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
The golden age of television is passing me by, so I don’t have a great answer for you. How about brands I’d like to represent in a commercial — it’s also the golden age of advertising, right? An Apple spot like that dancing Marian Hill one, a Bose commercial like the recent Aaron Rodgers quiet escape in Soldier Field, or something powerful in that direction that would be a thrill.
Do you have any tour dates you would like to tell our readers about? How will you be spending your winter?
I’ll be live again February and March so stay tuned for dates.
I’ll be back in NYC for some time to attend some great concerts and Broadway shows and see family. I usually have chance to write a lot over the holidays with extended downtime. I’m excited to bring to life a number of sketches in my longstanding Unstructured Song Ideas Google Doc.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music? I’d like to know more about how you want your music to be timeless?
These tunes deliberately have a few dimensions. “Cuddle Puddle” is about power and lust, but it’s also about self-deception and absurdism. “Sundresses” is about summer connections that span an appreciation for the fortuitous and shared experiences. But I don’t intend for a listener to pick all of that up in the first listen, or even necessarily in subsequent listens. I want one of these dimensions to be enough for a listener to react strongly to, and then for them to continue coming back, maybe for that initial reason, or maybe to further unpack the song.
With regards to timelessness, I can only write the strongest songs I know how and hope the production techniques don’t change too much in the coming decades… In all seriousness I think there is a lot of it that has to do with tone as well. Some of the biggest songs from the 70’s feel incredibly cheesy today, while a lot of the 80’s is unnervingly over-the-top. My favorite artists I alluded to before: Dylan, Prince, Steely Dan, have all made music for many decades that stands the test of time. And I have some ideas about the depth of their songs that I try to distill in my own music. But it’s hard to articulate and certainly to recreate what makes music timeless.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about yourself or your music?
I think a fair amount about how the way I intend for a song to be heard isn’t necessarily the same way people connect with it. And when I decide what songs to release next and what dimensions of the Zyles personality to emphasize, I’ll factor both what I want and what the audience responds to. So please give the tunes a listen, and if you can articulate why you connect to the music, what you like about it, or even what you turns you off, don’t be shy and send me a DM or an email.